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Your Phone Backups May Automatically Delete After Inactivity

If you’re anything like the average phone owner, you use your handheld device all the time and store a lot of your data on it. Not only the standard phone functions, like call and message history, but also your list of contacts, calendar events, and other application data.

The wise thing to do is backup this data. If it’s something that you wouldn’t want to lose, it needs to be backed up. Phones can be fickle devices sometimes, and are prone to data loss like any other technology, but also open to things like theft. Backup is the best solution.

But even backups have problems. Those on an Android device may backup their data to Google Drive – a feature that the search giant has supported for many years. All sorts of data can be automatically synced to Google Drive, meaning that it’s a breeze to restore your data should it be lost or when switching to a new phone.

However, it’s been uncovered that Google Drive will wipe your backups without notification or explicit permission if your device is inactive for more than two months. This was found by a user on Reddit, who sent their phone back for a refund and then found their data gone in the time they were looking for a replacement. A user who, it’s worth noting, was actually paying for additional Google Drive storage space – is it right that a paying user’s data should be wiped without their knowledge?

Of course, Google does document this on a support page, though never makes it clear during the backup process. The page says that you might see an expiration date on your backup folder if you don’t use the device for more than two weeks. If that goes beyond two months, the backup will be removed, at which point there’s no way of getting your data back.

Frustratingly, Google doesn’t send you any sort of warning notification to let you know that your data is due its death date. It could perhaps be forgiving if you got a push notification on the phone or an email, so that you could either be active on the device or export the backup, but there’s nothing like that.

Google aren’t the only phone company to employ this. Apple’s policy mentions that if you don’t backup your iOS device to iCloud in 180 days, they reserve the right to delete your backups. However, this is a more lenient period, and doesn’t guarantee that they will purge the data.

There’s a few ways round this. One would be to ensure that you use your device or backup system within the required time so that your backups remain. That’s probably naturally happening if you’re a regular phone user. Secondly, be sure to occasionally export your data to an offline backup, so that you have a permanent copy of the storage that you control. Thirdly, you could use a third-party backup application that doesn’t have such stringent limitations – browse your device’s app store and you’ll find many to choose from.


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